Blaze Star recurring nova expected to flare up again in months ahead

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New Delhi: Scientists are anticipating a nova eruption from the T Coronae Borealis system, abbreviated to T CrB between February and September 2024. A recurring nova occurs in the system, with eruptions previously observed in 1866 and 1788. The system is also known as the Blaze Star because of its periodic eruptions, which occurs about once every 80 years. Irish astronomer John Birmingham first spotted the system in 1866, with another outburst recorded in 1946.

Once the anticipated outburst takes place, the system should be visible to the naked eye for several days, and with a standard pair of binoculars for little more than a week. The nova will be visible in the constellation of Corona Borealis or the Northern Crown, which is a small constellation between Bootes and Hercules. For a short duration, the system will be of comparable brightness to the North Star, Polaris. After that, T CrB will fade again.

What is a recurring nova?

T CrB is a recurring nova, systems that suddenly increase in brightness about once a century. There are only five such recurring novae within the Milky Way, but scientists suspect there might be many more. Recurring novae occur in systems with the exploded remnant of a dead star, known as a white dwarf, in orbit around a binary companion. In T CrB, this binary companion is a red giant star. In such systems, the white dwarf accretes material from the outer atmosphere of its stellar companion.

Essentially, the white dwarf in such systems vampirically feed on their binary companions. The dense and shallow atmosphere of the white dwarf heats up. Periodically, this accumulated material is shed in a violent explosion, because of a thermonuclear reaction triggered by the heat, which are the novae. It is during these violent outbursts that the systems suddenly increase in brightness. After such an outburst, the process repeats itself, which can take about a century.

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